Just a few quick corrections. Like most Greek tragedies, the story of Oedipus was told by almost every Greek playwright. The version of Oedipus written by Sophocles is the most famous, though it was not the first, nor the last. Sophocles wrote three plays concerning Oedipus: Oedipus the King, Antigone, and Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus showed the world that trying to cheat fate is just stupid; his hubris did him in. In fact, Oedipus would probably make a pretty good programmer, as he meets two of Larry Wall's three requirements: impatience and hubris.

Even though Oedipus is commonly regarded as an old Greek play, some scientists say that the plays might just be the Greek interpretation of an even older Egyptian story, the Story of King Akhnaton and his political maneuvers (1350 B.C.).

Similarities between the stories of Akhnaton and Oedipus:

  • Both disappeared. (Akhnaton's mummy was never found.)
  • Akhnaton was held responsible for several plagues in Egypt.
  • Akhnaton had two sons; Semenkhare and Tutankhamon, what is known of their story corresponds which that detailed in the Antigone play.
  • The third play "Oedipus at Colonus" (Colonus is the name for Kolona, an ancient name for Troy, and Colonus in Greece), details his exile to the border of Thebes (before the foundation of Athens, the Egyptian territory extended North up to the border of Hittite country, i.e. Kolona's land).
  • Oedipus was the King of Thebes (there have been two cities called Thebes, one was in Greece, and the other was the capital of Egypt.)
  • Both Akhnaton and Oedipus were adopted by a Royal family.

Further theories speculate whether Akhnaton could be the biblical figure Moses. Moses too was adopted. And both Akhnaton and Oedipus fled (or were exiled), as was Moses. And as far as the story of Akhnaton goes he was exiled from Egypt with a group of people, which have been called "non Egyptians".

But all of this is ancient history, and as all know ancient history isn't easy to verify.

Actually, the Oedipus story far precedes the formation of tragedy in Ancient Greece and derives from the Theban Cycle which was lost somewhere during the Middle Ages.

Aeschylus wrote a trilogy of plays concerning the myth, from which only the first part, "Seven Against Thebes", survived. His version of the myth varies in several important points from Sophocles' later one in several important points.

The third Oedipan play is "Oedipus in Colonos".

The myth of Oedipus has parallels in almost every civilization known to mankind.

The first play is also called Oedipus Tyrranos or Oedipus Rex, the second is Oedipus at Colonus, and Antigone. The stories are based on ancient Grecian folklore; however, the trilogy by Sophocles is thought to be the birth of the modern tragic hero.

See also: Sir Gawain and the Green Night, Macbeth, and Death of a Salesman

Oedipus's Qualities as a Leader

Bold, reckless, and arrogant were words that came to mind when I thought of Oedipus before reading SophoclesOedipus the King. Based on background information, I figured that this man was somewhat of a good ruler but a terrible person. A man who would murder his father and marry his mother must surely be a nasty person, even if the crimes were committed “accidentally”. I saw him as a man trying to use the oracles as a scapegoat, and trying to push blame around him as if it were not his fault. I thought of him as a weak person who could not stand up to his own actions.

I came to discover though, as I read the first Theban play, that Oedipus’s qualities greatly outweigh his faults. He was a good man with moral values instilled in his pure heart. From the first moment he was introduced, I saw what kind of ruler he was seen as by those he ruled. He was a hero who was rightfully at the head of the throne. Since he first became King shortly after he defeated the Sphinx in a battle of wit, he was looked upon by the people as the savior of the city. The citizens of Thebes were not afraid to ask Oedipus for help, because they knew he would deliver it. “What is the meaning of this thronging around my feet, this holding out of olive boughs all wreathed in woe?” He asked as the people gathered around him for support. The people knew their great king would help, and never turn his cheek away from his people.

Surely enough, Oedipus quickly finds out the problem and immediately tries to find a solution. His decisiveness and determination, more qualities of leadership, are evident as he proclaims the beginning of his investigation of the murder of Laius, the former king, with the following oath, “I am resolute, and shall not stop till with Apollo’s help all-blessed we emerge.”

Through this example, we also see into Oedipus’s personality. He is a simple man with strong goals and an unbending will. He begins the investigation at once with absolutely no leads or clues, and yet proceeds to promise his people that all will be solved and the gods’ curse lifted. He believes that every crime can be solved as long as an attempt is made, even if, to others, there is little hope. This is shown as he eagerly declares, “Then I shall go back and drag that shadowed past out to what was sorely present,” when he learns that the investigation was dropped ages ago and all evidence is now practically gone. However, through the same example, we also see that Oedipus is bold and sometimes rash. Many of his actions are hasty. He acts quickly on whims without thinking clearly and often turns against people he should trust simply because they bring bad news. While questioning the blind prophet Tiresias, he learns things that he does not like, and immediately turns against him despite the old man’s reputation and aged wisdom. “You think you can go on blabbering unscathed?” yells Oedipus as he hears Tiresias utter the same words that the oracle gave him long ago. Similarly, he turns against his own half-brother Creon because he suspects treachery. This lack of distrust and his refusal to heed the advice of others are his greatest faults.

Decisiveness is a good quality of leadership, but perhaps he has too much of a good quality. He is a great leader for his country because a country needs a bold and brave leader who takes action quickly to match the changing times, but on his own personal health his ‘qualities’ may take a heavy toll. As Creon says to him over and over again, “You are your own worst enemy.”

In "Oedipus Rex," by Sophocles, Oedipus faces a broad range of emotional elements, experiencing polar opposites of: Fame/shame, sight/blindness, and ignorance/insight. On a grander scale, there is an extreme difference between his life as a wanderer and finally being King of Thebes. Oedipus was an intelligent man who relied on his wits to a great extent and rose to be king. Yet he ultimately relied on his quick wits too much, and lost his kingdom, after unbeknownst to Oedipus, he murdered his father. This dramatic irony illustrates Oedipus's search for his own identity, an identity composed of polar feelings and emotions. Slackinwhilesleepin asked, "Does this guy know he's bipolar?" To answer that I say nay, he was not, but instead polarity meaning two opposites in the same person that are used by the author to contrast decisions, and perhaps society.

Oedipus answered the riddle of the Sphinx, “Man,” which in turn led him to become the king of the grateful Thebans. He took the room and throne of his father, Laius, espoused the widowed queen, his own mother, Jocasta, who bore children to Oedipus. This was supposed to be his fame, becoming king for his good works. It happened overnight, a great representation of Oedipus’s hasty decisions. After a plague had overrode his kingdom, Oedipus said, “I will lend my aid To avenge this wrong to Thebes and to the god. Not for some far-off kinsman, but myself, Shall I expel this poison in the blood." This plague was the consequence of his killing Laius, which ruined his fame, bringing unto him shame. Oedipus protested, “Yet kings must rule,” to which Creon replied, “Not if they rule ill.” Oedipus was a good ruler, but ill fate ruled him. Hasty again, Oedipus ruins his remaining fame by blinding himself with his own hands, upon seeing his wife dead - by her own hands. Oedipus is exiled in shame to save Thebes from the plague.

The sight of Oedipus was farther than the reach of his own hands, but was blind to the fate the Gods gave him until he met up with his disaster of so long ago. He saved people from the sphinx with his great intellect, called for the oracle in times of need, and ruled the lands prosperously all in great sight. Jocasta upon Oedipus’s inquiry of Laius’s murder, told him of the servant, “For as soon as he (servant) returned and found Thee reigning in the stead of Laius slain, He clasped my hand and supplicated me To send him to the alps and pastures, where He might be farthest from the sight of Thebes.” Oedipus was told by Loxias of his pending destiny, foretelling “That (Oedipus) should mate with (his) own mother, and shed With (his) own hands the blood” of his own father and sire and he left who he saw were his parents, missing their “sweetest sight, (his) parents’ face.” All these sights Oedipus saw, and using his intellect decided to run from his fate walking in fact right into it. Fates telling, no man can walk away from his fate, and the Gods seemingly reprimand Oedipus with his own self consequence of blinding his once natural sight. Though Oedipus’s judgement may have led him to become King, he misjudges Teiresias by telling him, “For thou In ear, wit, eye, in everything art blind,” when in fact Oedipus was the more blind of the two. Weighing these two polarities, his sight and blindness, it is apparent that Oedipus could only see so far, but far enough to be a temporary king.

No man can have great insight and not be ignorant. Oedipus is a shining example of a man with great insight but with great ignorance of others and even his own insight. He killed a man because he was “mistreated” with a bop on his head by a passer coach. Then, knowing of this death did nothing until consequences were catching up, “But none has seen the man who saw him fall,” suggesting that he knew not of the servant who got away. If his insight had gone past his solving of the riddle, he would never have killed a man on such terms, confirming his correct downfall. Comparing Oedipus to Creon, who with wisdom said, “The truth, for time alone reveals the just; A villain is detected in a day,” it is apparent that Oedipus was ignorant to truth, no matter his own insight. Oedipus’s downfall for his ignorance that fate cannot be avoided, supposing to use his insight of knowing his fate to flee, was avoidable, but rather it was not.

Oedipus’s rises and falls correspond with the polarity of his actions, evolving from wanderer to king, and from king to a blind, exiled, and pride beaten man. Fluctuating in his search, Oedipus went on sloping hills, often acting upon his intelligence to mighty victories and unfortunate downfalls. Oedipus's identity, one always being searched for by himself and others, was free from fate, but bound by it too nonetheless.

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